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Johannesburg Correspondent

JOHANNESBURG – The United Nations in New York launched a $282million appeal for Mozambique Monday, following the devastation caused by Cyclone Idai, according to the South African Broadcasting Corporation.

The cyclone, which also hit Malawi and Zimbabwe – killing more than 750 people and affecting 2,6million in total, is probably the worst weather-related disaster to ever hit the southern hemisphere, according to the United Nations, which seeks to launch similar appeals for the other two affected countries within the coming days.

Cyclone Idai has left a trail of devastation in the three Southern African countries, killing people, destroying houses, roads and bridges have been ripped apart and agricultural land is completely submerged.

More than 750 people are confirmed dead, 400,000 lost their homes and millions of others were affected both directly and indirectly, according to various agencies.

With the destruction already done, the UN’s immediate concern is to help the affected and to prevent an outbreak of diseases with the funding, to be rolled out only for the next three months with a big focus on hygiene, sanitation, health and education for children.

Henrietta Fore, the Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund recently visited Mozambique and reiterated their position that in places like Beira and the Buzi District of Mozambique, they are in a race against time.

And with thousands either huddled in camps or schools, humanitarian workers are bracing for the spread of diseases like cholera or malaria.

“Buzi town is right across the mouth of the river from Beira and Buzi town is now underwater, they say it’s now under 8 metres of water, but you cannot see a person, you cannot see a building, you can only hope that people could swim or walk out but they were coming because there’s no food,” said Fore.

“It’s just an inland sea as far as you can see and they are coming to Beira and Beira has been separated, it’s been an island. The airport is now working, communications are back up. As of this weekend there is running water which will be extremely important but we are very worried about disease.”

Fore said there were long-term recovery and development requirements for one of the poorest regions of the world, with a need for the agrarian economies of the region to diversify faster in order to offset the extreme weather that will continue to be a common feature – with at least half a million hectares of agricultural land damaged in Mozambique alone.

UN Emergency Relief Coordinator and the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mark Lowcock said: “Malawi is very reliant on substance farmers planting maize. Maize requires 90 days of reasonably regular rain and the number of years in which that is happening seems to be falling. So the obvious takeaway is how is Malawi going to diversify its economy to be a bit less reliant on rain-fed agriculture – there’s a lot of irrigation potential in Malawi but also to maybe diversity planting choices.”

The scale of devastation is extraordinary, with entire communities, villages, and cities having to be rebuilt once this phase of the humanitarian response is complete.

“Tens of people came then, hundreds and now thousands that are crowded into these schools. They’re lined up for clean water, they need sanitation facilities, they are sleeping there. They left with whatever was on their backs so people have donated some quilts for warmth, we’re doing nutrition, we’ve set up temporary medical areas, some doctors were lecturing in town and they are now helping out at these quickly set up medical centres. We have quite a few orphans, we have called out to their families. When they don’t respond for two or three days we have to fear the worst, so it is a very difficult situation for them,” added Fore.

According to reports, over 100 000 people are living in shelters across Mozambique with almost 60 000 homes destroyed; many in and around the port city of Beira.

I would like to thank the Red Crescent for the cargo carrier carrying 95 tonnes of humanitarian aid – including food, tents & medicines – which was generously donated by the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Thank for both your friendship and generosity.

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